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Ucluelet residents fear proposed housing development’s traffic impacts

Discourse heated as locals, including former mayor, express frustration over lack of communication
This image of Lot 16’s proposed development shows an access off Victoria Road that area residents believe will create too much traffic. (Ucluelet council agenda)

Discourse got heated in Ucluelet’s council chambers as residents, including the town’s former mayor, expressed frustration over what they perceived to be a lack of information from the district office about a large development being proposed at Lot 16 Marine Drive.

While the council agenda called for a discussion on the development’s proposed road and sidewalk width, the topic quickly changed during the public’s turn to speak as residents were eager to raise concerns about an access slated for Victoria Road.

The lot is currently slated for a new neighbourhood to be built with an expected 112 homes, including a 48-unit apartment building, that will require an internal road to be built to access.

During their June 27 regular meeting, Ucluelet’s municipal council reviewed a development variance permit application that would allow the developers of Lot 16 to create a narrower roadway than the district’s current bylaws allow.

“From the outset of the rezoning process for Lot 16, the proposal was to create a new neighbourhood of compact residential lots and multifamily parcels along new internal roads between Marine Drive and Victoria Road,” director of community planning Bruce Grieg wrote in a report to council. “The internal road dedication (or “highway”: the legal term for the public strip of land between private lot lines within which the road surface, boulevards, sidewalks and services are typically located) has from the outset been proposed to be narrower than the 15 to 20m standard width.”

Along with his report, Greig also presented to council and explained that the bylaws in question date back to 1989.

“It is long in the tooth,” he said, adding district staff do not feel the bylaw still fits Ucluelet and that most of the subdivisions that have happened over the last 20 years have not followed that standard.

Coun. Ian Kennington expressed concern over the impact the ‘new’ standards are having on walkways.

“We’re ending up with a maintenance nightmare with these asphalt sidewalks everywhere that are deteriorating after a year,” Kennington said. “While the old subdivision standards may be outdated, those sidewalks that were built to those standards are still in existence today, while the ones we built two years ago are falling apart.”

During a public comment period regarding the application, Ucluelet’s former mayor Mayco Noel suggested the residents in attendance were not there to discuss the development’s road width or sidewalks.

“I don’t think anyone cares less about that,” he said.

Noel said he shared the concerns of many of his neighbours about a proposed access road into the development off Victoria Road.

He said area residents “love the tranquilness,” of Victoria Road, adding many children play in the area and the road is not equipped to handle the traffic such a large development would bring to it.

“(District) staff wants to find what fits for Ucluelet. We’re telling you here clearly, we know what fits for Ucluelet,” he said to council. “I just hope that you guys can find some middle ground because more delays in this program is devastating for our community and I can only imagine what it’s like if these guys (the developers) are carrying the financial burden. I’m just truly disappointed to see the concept be presented to the community in this fashion.”

Michael Granbois also lives on Victoria Road and shared Noel’s sentiment.

“The sidewalks isn’t the matter that we’re talking about, this is the access issue that’s everyone’s here for,” he said. “There’s no one in this room other than the developers who are here that are in favour of this project and, if so, I’d love for them to come to the mic and actually speak their piece.”

Granbois suggested the access on Victoria Road “will add an enormous volume of traffic and noise disturbance to our small residential street,” and expressed frustration that the district has seemingly ignored the neighbourhood’s feedback.

“This is absurd. Since the very beginning, residents have expressed concerns about this proposed road access and it’s not been addressed in any way,” he said.

“We’re disturbed that Victoria Road access is still being considered after all this time. You’ve heard all the community’s feedback, this council and last. Concerns since 2018 when neighbours first commented on the proposal. Victoria Road is a quiet residential street where almost half of all residents have children that are school-aged and are walking, biking, scootering every single day.”

He suggested having the development’s entrance and exit off Marine Drive.

“Nobody can deny that Marine Drive is much better suited to handle the actual traffic volume and disturbance caused by this development,” he said. “The character of the surrounding neighbourhood is at risk as is the health and safety of residents if these issues are not properly addressed.”

Bailey Labrie retorted Granbois’ claim that no one supported the project, stating that she is in support of it.

“I do think we need more housing. I do think we really need rental units badly in this town. I’d really like to see that happen. I understand everyone’s concerns about things getting busy, but the density is increasing in this town whether you like it or not,” Labrie said.

“If you think that this town’s not going to grow, you’re wrong. At least we’re densifying where the OCP (Official Community Plan) is already planned for it, in the middle of town and not cutting down old growth trees…My street’s busy too and my kids are out there.”

Kim Clark expressed confusion over when the Victoria Road access became an approved and official part of the development’s plan and suggested communication with the public has not been clear.

“I’m sure you can tell by the few shocked faces that I’m not certain that Victoria Road residents were entirely aware that that was approved,” she said. “In the last 4-5 years, the residents of Marine and Victoria have been very consistent in their message to council to please consider the impact of the road onto Victoria.”

Monique Copeland said she walks along Victoria Road every day and doubted it could handle the development’s additional traffic.

“I just hope that we’re not putting the cart before the horse and going too big before it’s too late. I just want to know that our community is growing at a nice regular pace so we’re not trying to grow too fast,” Copeland said.

Mayor Marilyn McEwen suggested growth is needed to help tackle the town’s housing crunch.

“Unfortunately, density is the way to keep prices down. This is a dense development absolutely, but we absolutely need housing, so what can you do?,” McEwen said.

Noel agreed with Clark that the district’s communication about the project, specifically the Victoria Road access, has not been strong.

“We support the density, the apartment, the townhomes, it’s all an access issue,” he said.

“When this was told, it was a concept.”

Coun. Kennington suggested making the Victoria Road access emergency use only, with bollards in place to block non-emergency vehicles and establishing Marine Drive as the primary entrance and exit.

“That doesn’t change the layout of the road and it doesn’t set us too far back. It really could be that simple,” he said. “I don’t think it adds any additional costs. It doesn’t change the servicing. It doesn’t change the fact that there is actually a road there. All it changes is two breakaway bollards, which limit the traffic on Victoria Road.”

Greig noted that, once built, the road would become the district’s property and that the access off Victoria Road could be made emergency use only if the district chose to do so.

Council seemed in favour of allowing the narrower roadway and sidewalks, but also voted to direct their staff to investigate the implications of making the future Victoria Road access emergency-use only.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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